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The Emergency Stop

In my article 211, The dropped recall, I described how we use this valuable exercise in many ways, but also how you can achieve this with your own dog. There are many occasions where a dog handler will wish to stop their dog where it is, until they tell it to do something else. Most often, the handler stops their dog in the down, as this is the safest position because it is less likely to move. On the other hand, with the emergency stop we normally leave the dog in the standing position.

There are many times when owners would wish they could give a command STOP to their dog and it will remain there until some danger passes, or they regain control of their dog. Crossing a busy road when there is a car coming is the most obvious. Whilst many dog owners see the value of such an exercise, teaching it appears, not only daunting, but also seemingly impossible. This is because they think their dog cannot learn something so advanced. This is not the case, it is because owners have little idea how they would teach it.

In fact, this is a very easy exercise to teach and most dogs will learn to stop at the third attempt. This is providing your dog will at least come back to you when called. It must also love either treats or a toy, as well as capable of seeing it when thrown towards it. If you have these requisites, any difficulty that people are experiencing, it is not with the dog, but the handlers motor and coordination skills.

So how do we train our dogs to stop and stand still on our command?

You must at least have a dog that will come back to you from either running free or when you place your dog at a spot and say WAIT. You then leave your dog and walk approximately ten metres. You can have someone hold your dog until you call it too you. (Without the STOP command, this exercise is a simple recall.)


First, place your dog in the sit position or have someone hold it and say in a firm voice WAIT. At the same time, place the flat of your hand in front of the dog’s face, like stopping traffic, and then leave your dog.

When you have walked about ten metres, you then turn to face your dog. However, look over your dogs head without any eye-to-eye contact. If you do look at your dog, it will most probably come back to you as it reads your body language of how you normally call it to you.

When you are ready, look at your dog, smile, be happy and call it to you. It should start to come to you immediately. Almost as soon as it sets off and before it reaches terminal velocity, quickly step forward giving a firm command STOP. Simultaneously raise your hand as if you were stopping traffic. Dogs are wary of anything coming towards them so they often hesitate naturally. At the same time as you say STOP, then with your other hand, throw the treat or toy just over the dogs head and ensure that it sees it so that in order get it, your dog must go back again.


This time set your dog up exactly as before. Again, call your dog and step forward with your police hand signal, saying stop. Instead of throwing your item, you hesitate part way through the throwing action. Look to see if there is also any hesitation in your dog before throwing it over its head.


On this occasion, follow exactly the same set up as before. Again, step forward with your Command of Stop, along with the Policeman’s hand signal. The difference this time is you do not actually let go of the item. Your dog should come to a stop, waiting for it. You remain stationary just as if you are still going to throw the treat or toy, so looking as if you are teasing. If your dog attempts to move towards you, then and only then, throw it. Your dog must learn there is no point coming towards you, because it is only going to have to go back.

I do agree, it does look like a very advanced exercise, but it is very easy. It is better if you practice each step, on your own and without your dog. Once you have your coordination right, then its time to try it together.

Roxy, as in the picture, started her beginners training at five months of age. Her owners learned the technique in week two of their course. In the following week, they demonstrated a perfect stop that even included going into the down position. Everyone in class just applauded.

Just to show that size does not matter. Now having gained her qualification for basic obedience at eight months, she is in the advanced class of searching, tracking, agility and advanced obedience.

If like Roxy, having owners willing to teach, this also makes dogs willing to work. Now there will be no stopping them.

The joy of teaching your dog little exercises just like this, you learn how to communicate with one another. The more you learn, the easier it becomes to teach your dog anything.


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